The US State Department denied a report Saturday alleging that the US special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Martin Indyk, “bashed” Israel in a “tirade” during conversations with his staff and his wife at a hotel bar in Washington, soon after delivering a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy earlier this month.
“What you’ve heard is categorically false. It didn’t happen, period,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told the conservative website, the Washington Free Beacon, which published the report. “After Ambassador Indyk gave a public speech where he said both sides were responsible for the breakdown in talks, he spent five minutes chatting with his team — and did not say one word about Israel.”
“That was it. What your secondhand source has told you is just not true,” Harf said.
The Free Beacon published an article earlier Saturday, citing “an individual who heard the conversation,” saying the special envoy launched a “nasty” 30-minute “tirade” against Israel, fully blaming it for the peace talks failure last month.
The “individual” said Indyk was “openly lashing out at Israel over drinks with several members of his staff and wife, Gahl Burt” at the bar in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
“In the 30 minute conversation, no one at the table mentioned a single wrong thing the Palestinians had done,” the source was quoted by the website as saying. “There was no self-criticism whatsoever.”
The source added that Indyk and others present “openly blamed” Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and his party for the breakdown of talks, through their continued announcement of settlement tenders throughout the nine-months process.
Indyk also took aim at the Washington Institute’s director Rob Satloff, who moderated a question-and-answer session with Indyk that evening, the Beacon report claimed. “Indyk ‘was incredulous’ that Satloff had offered an alternate explanation of the settlement issue, one that applied less blame to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Indyk told his crew that Satloff’s explanation ‘was just false’ and that no one he knows believes it.”
The conversation, according to the source, then turned to Israel’s general treatment of the Palestinians and of issues such as water distribution and electricity problems.
The Free Beacon reported that those party to the conversation “took pleasure in Indyk’s public bashing of Israel in his speech,” according to the source. “Whatever supposed even-handedness there was in public … was absolutely gone in private.”
The report claimed Indyk broke away from his team when former Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, with whom he had been scheduled to meet, arrived in the bar. “The two then engaged in an hour-long conversation.”
In his speech at the Institute earlier this month, Indyk criticized both sides for the failed peace talks. Days earlier, a Yedioth Ahronoth feature, reportedly based on a briefing by Indyk, quoted unnamed US officials offering a withering assessment of Netanyahu’s handling of the negotiations, indicated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution, and warned Israel that the Palestinians will achieve statehood come what may — either via international organizations or through violence. The officials highlighted Netanyahu’s ongoing settlement construction as the issue “largely to blame” for the failure of Kerry’s July 2013-April 2014 effort to broker a permanent peace accord.
On Thursday, the New York Times published an article, quoting an unnamed US senior official, saying that US President Barack Obama believes, more than any other factor, that Israeli announcements of construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem throughout the nine months of talks led to the negotiations’ collapse.